Democracy and America

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The United States is the most powerful nation on earth, politically, economically and militarily, but its political system is in many important respects unlike any other in the world. Aristotle called the rule of the many for the benefit of all citizens a “polity” and referred to the rule of many to benefit themselves as a “democracy”. The term democracy is derived from the Greek words demos (the people) and kratia (power or authority) and may be used to refer to any system of government that gives power to the people, either directly, or indirectly through elected representatives. Democracy is hard, perhaps the most complex and difficult of all forms of government. It is filled with tensions and contradictions, and requires that its members labor diligently to make it work. Democracy is not designed for efficiency, but for accountability; a democratic government may not be able to act as quickly as a dictatorship, but once committed to a course of action it can draw upon deep wellsprings of popular support. Democracy, certainly in America, is never a finished product, but is always evolving. The outer forms of government in the United States have altered little in two centuries, but once we look past the surface we discover great changes. Yet, most Americans believe that the basic principles underlying their government derive directly from notions first enunciated by the Framers. The Framers wanted to create a political system that involved placing the people at the center of power. Due to the vest size of the new nation, direct democracy, a system of government in which members of the polity meet to discuss all policy decisions and then agree to abide by majority rule, was unworkable. As more and more settlers came to the New World, many town meetings were replaced by a system of indirect democracy, a system of government that gives citizens the opportunity to vote for representatives who work on their behalf. Many citizens were uncomfortable with the term democracy because it made them think of people over-turning the government or like a mob rule. Instead, they preferred the term republic, a government rooted in the consent of the governed in which citizens elect leaders to represent their political interests. Today, representative democracies are more commonly called republics, and the words democracy and republic are used interchangeably. Yet, in the United States, we still pledge allegiance to our “republic”, not a democracy. James Madison also agreed as he stated in the Federalist #10 article. Madison states, "The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man”, so the cure is to control their effects. He makes an argument on how this is not possible in a pure democracy but possible in a republic. With pure democracy, he means a system in which every citizen votes directly for laws, and, with republic, he intends a society in which the citizens vote for an elite of representatives who then vote for laws. He indicates that the voice of the people pronounced by a body of representatives is more conformable to the interest of the community because common people’s decisions are affected by their self-interest. The representative democratic system devised by the Framers to govern the United States is based on a number of underlying concepts and distinguishing characteristics that sometimes conflict with each other. These ideas can be described as commonly shared attitudes, beliefs, and core values about how the government should operate. American political culture emphasizes the values of liberty and equality, popular consent, majority rule, popular sovereignty, individualism, and religious faith and freedom. In my opinion, Madison and other Framers did mean to limit democracy to some extent, not that democracy was wrong or bad. They wanted as much power to be given to the people as possible. As I stated before, a republic and a democracy go hand in hand and are very similar so it would be...
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